Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)
Swazi sugar corporation accused of illegal evictions
The Swaziland Justice Forum has accused the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation of being complicit in the illegal eviction of sugar cane farmers and their families from what should have been by now their freehold land.
The forum alleged that these evictions were largely motivated by King Mswati III of Swaziland’s desire to incorporate this land into his national trust and then lease it to the sugar corporation.
Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a wealth fund also held in trust by the king, owns 53,1% of the latter.
According to the forum, in 1962, when Swaziland was still a British protectorate, the British helped empower some rural citizens by establishing a large smallholder sugar cane growing scheme, called Vuvulane Irrigated Farms.
Following pressure from the king and contrary to the pledge to eventually give the land to the farmers, the Vuvulane land was transferred to him in 1998, to be held in trust for the Swazi nation.
Large portions of the land had already been taken over by the king and Tibiyo Taka Ngwane and leased to the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation, a statement by the forum said.
At least 33 farmers and their 293 dependants had more recently allegedly been violently evicted from their land by Swazi police.
The remainder of the tenants were reportedly “living in fear of the same fate, with no recourse to justice or protection from the power of the king and Tibiyo”, the statement said.
The chief legal officer of RCL Foods, Steven Heath, told Farmer’s Weekly that, as a minority shareholder in the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation, the company did not have management control of operations “but relies on information supplied and presentations made to the board”.
“RCL Foods is not aware of any illegal or unprocedural evictions having taken place at the [insistance] of [the sugar corporation],” Heath said.
“Accordingly, we deny that RCL Foods is involved in a corporate scandal or complicit in human rights violations.” – Lloyd Phillips